For years, scientists have split cannabis into three sub-species. Sativa strains were celebrated for their earthier flavors and the generally uplifting high they provided consumers. Shorter in stature, and sweeter in taste, Indicas were the go-to strains when one wanted to chill. Both had something pretty good to offer in both medical and recreational circles, so breeders focused a lot of attention on them.
Poor, poor Ruderalis.
As the unlovable third sub-species, this slight and unassuming plant had little to nothing to offer. You couldn't get high from it; it's THC content was negligible. And compared to Sativas and Indicas, it was a short little pipsqueak with unimpressive-sized buds. Where did this low-life plant even come from anyway?
I'll tell you.
Cannabis can be traced back some 12,000 years ago to Central Asia where early farmers first cultivated it. They eventually bred a variety of strains that were useful for a broad range of products such as medicines, clothing, and rope. Over the ensuing centuries, these cultivated plants spread far and wide. The Ruderalis strains developed as a particularly tough seed that could thrive in harsh growing conditions. In fact, the name comes from the Latin word for rubble, meaning these plants could grow in rocky, untended places like construction sites and in ditches along the road where no self-respecting Sativa or Indica strains could survive. And, sure enough, those are the types of places CR started to show up in when they escaped cultivated gardens and blended into the Russian Siberian wilderness.
The spelled out CR name was coined in 1924 by a Russian botanist named Janischewski. As feral plants, it is believed they evolved from former hemp plants that had previously adapted to harsh climates. Today, they can be found throughout the American midwest. They can't be smoked without giving the user a headache, and they can't be made into fiber. And as for the cows? They won't touch the stuff. The locals call it ditch weed.
So why are we even talking about it?
Despite the lackluster qualities of our unlovable third sub-species, it did have one good thing going for it. Having been exposed to harsh Siberian winters with a dearth of sunlight, CR evolved with an ability to flower on its own accord regardless of the amount it was exposed to. Unlike Sativas and Indicas which are photoperiod dependent, out of necessity, these plants developed an internal clock and flowered automatically when they reached a certain age.
More importantly, resourceful breeders from Canada and other parts of the world started giving the auto-flowering qualities of CR a second look. The auto-flowering trait was desirable not just because it flowered independent of light cycles. Auto-flowering plants also matured more quickly, and that meant more crops could be grown per year. These plants also eliminated the need to keep separate vegetative and flowering spaces with timers. And being significantly smaller than Sativas and Indicas, they were perfect for smaller indoor grow spaces or raising discretely outdoors.
Was there a way, these breeders began asking, to create a strain with the auto-flowering trait that also produced a good smoke? There was only one way to find out.
Breeders began crossing the plant with various Sativas and Indicas in an attempt to create a stable, THC-potent, auto-flowering product. But it was slow going. The strains produced had a very low THC content, and the taste wasn't all that remarkable. Many of them gave up.
The federal government was also getting in on the act. In 1978 it launched the MMJ program at the University of Mississippi to produce the first legal medical marijuana for a handful of patients.
Around the turn of the century, a hobbyist grower, The Joint Doctor, made a real breakthrough. Having grown up on a farm, The Joint Doctor became attracted to unusual qualities in plants, and he did a lot of experimenting, including with weed. In time he began creating small strains for his personal use.
At one point in his travels, he acquired a batch of seeds from a Mexican friend by the name of Antonio, who referred to the seeds as Mexican Rudy. The seed produced a strain of plant that stayed short and flowered early. Mexican Rudy's lineage was uncertain. Was it a cross between CR and a Mexican Sativa? Did it find its way out of the University of Mississippi MMJ program? Who knew?
At any rate, The Joint Doctor began growing Mexican Rudy and crossing it with different strains. Eventually, he was able to breed an autoflowering plant that stood no taller than 30 centimeters. Several experiments later, he developed "Lowryder," which became the first commercially available autoflower strain.
That first strain wasn't great. The THC content was still sub-standard. But it opened the eyes of a lot of breeders to the potential of breeding CR hybrids. The Joint Doctor continued his cross-breeding experiments, eventually producing an autoflower Lowryder #2 which had a higher THC content, better taste, and greater yield.
And with that, research and development into the autoflower market exploded. Today's strains can grow taller, pack more oversized, resinous, aromatic buds on their frames, and have TCH content in some cases in the neighborhood of 24 percent. Taste has also increased exponentially. The future is looking bright.
Cannabis Auto Seeds: The Sequel?
And so now you know the story of the once-unloved underdog, the third sub-species of marijuana which thanks to its evolutionary ability to autoflower, finally made good. In fact, the autoflower varieties available today make up a big part of the marijuana seeds market.